POW! Okay, I’ve kind of avoided most mobile games over the years for a few reasons that paradoxically enough, I still play console titles for. But I’ve been coming around to the 21st century just in time for mobile gaming to be more or less where I’d like it. An invite to see Kambam’s lineup of mobile titles just so happened to zing into my inbox, so it was off to see what they had to offer and if I’d be hooked in by anything that caught my eye. It turns out everything I saw caught my eye (yes, and the other eye, too) and I found myself trying to figure out just when I’d find time to play what I got my hands on that afternoon and into the evening…
First up was The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth (iOS, Google Play), a collectible “card” RPG with digital figurines replacing the usual cards. With card battle RPGs hugely popular in Asian markets, the formula (minus the very text-heavy plots and dialogue they’re known for overseas) is making its way to western shores in fine form indeed.
LoM-e combines collection, customization and combat in a fast-paced retelling of each of the three films. The game is free to play (of course), easy to get into and as I found out soon enough, tough to put down. Players will be able to adventure through the game with a party they can upgrade as they meet and collect a varying assortment of friendly NPC characters that are added to a pool and used to boost party members as the game progresses.
While I loved the speedy gameplay quite a lot (battles can be toggled off if you want the game to move even faster), I’d have to say the game needs multiple pathways in the exploration mode. No matter how pretty the environments look, going in a straight line continually may get a bit dull to some players. It would be cool to see alternate paths that lead to hidden treasure or perhaps optional content such as even tougher bosses (although the ones here can be pretty challenging to low level parties). That said, this is only the first of three installments, so I’m sure any user feedback about this can be addressed if the dev team decides it’ll make the experience better.
Next up was Marvel: Contest of Champions, the surprisingly cool fighting/collectible character game that’s been causing some die-hard console fighting fans who don’t think their smartphones make decent gaming devices to seriously consider jumping in with both feet first into the mobile age.
Set for a December 2014 launch via an app shop near you, this fast-paced and exceptionally good looking F2P game also falls into the card battle/collectible genre, but once you see this in action, you’ll just think of it as a REALLY fun fighting game/RPG hybrid. As I’m an ancient guy, I recognized this as a sort of riff on and homage to the 1982 Contest of Champions limited series, updated with a more current roster of Marvel’s best and brightest (and Deadpool, of course). The sheer amount of characters that can be unlocked as progression rewards (or paid content if you prefer) is somewhat staggering, but I’ll let you guess who’s in the roster (just watch that trailer for some hints).
The gameplay is a bit like Injustice with a smooth control setup that works quite well on a tablet screen. basic moves and combos are simple to whip out, but you can’t turtle your way to victory by getting in some early hits and blocking your way to victory. Enemies will break your guard with well-placed specials, but you can return the favor and blast them around with your own charged moves. The game is pretty addictive and I didn’t want to stop playing (which made writer Sam Humphries pretty happy), but I had to move onto my next appointment which was with…
Moonrise Undead Labs’ new free to play MMO looks more like a really cool PC game and not a mobile game, bringing a slicker sort of hipster version of Pokemon to the masses in a collectible creature game packed with fast-paced combat that isn’t an auto-waiting game like many other mobile MMOs. In fact, the game’s intuitive drag and tap battles are made to be competitive and engaging right from the start as they teach you to keep an eye on everything happening during each battle.
You play as a newbie warden, one of many your residents of the world of Moonrise who need to keep the population of monsters called Lunari, formerly friendly Solari creatures who’ve been affected by what seems to be a lunar sickness that’s made them turn wild. The game goes for a cartoony but detailed look and succeeds royally on that front, with customizable avatars for each player and monsters that look cute yet threatening. I got to play through the tutorial and a few dungeons, leveling up my starting and a few captured monsters thanks to the solid battle system.
You can have up to six monsters in your party, but only two (plus your avatar) can go into battle. Part of the strategy is mixing up your battle team so you can defeat and survive the different elemental attacks and defense the game’s Lunari come at you with. Even in the early areas of the game, monsters can be formidable foes if you’re not paying attention, and while the AI puts up a solid fight, going up against live players in the game’s PvP is even more challenging, particularly against skilled opponents with high level Lunari in their possession.
If you’re more a fan of action RPGs and want a bit more fantasy elements in play, Kabam has Spirit Storm and Creature Academy on the way to keep you busy. They’re both in the action/RPG vein (which makes me pretty darn happy), but will definitely appeal to super-casual players who like their battles with an automatic option. Spirit Storm looks like a mobile Torchlight mod, which is a good thing, as Runic’s instant classic ended up doing quite well for that developer even though it had no multiplayer or online components:
And here’s a little Creature Academy for your viewing pleasure. Both titles use the same collect/upgrade/play mechanics found in the other games here, so if you’re hard pressed to pick just one or happen to have enough free time to play a bunch or all of these, you’ll feel right at home and them some.
Overall, this was quite a solid lineup of games, but it’s hard not to expect that from Kabam, as they’ve been at this in the MMO space for a little while, but have some pretty happy legions of fans playing their stable of MMO titles. This newest push into the mobile space should guarantee fans of these games many, many hours of staying up a wee bit too late in that “one more level!” manner the best addictive games have going for them.